July 1, 2012

Charles Hodge (1797–1878) on Our Benevolent Sovereign

Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

God desires the salvation of all men. This means 1st, just what is said when the Scriptures declare that God is good; that he is merciful and gracious, and ready to forgive; that he is good to all, and his tender mercies over his works. He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. This goodness or benevolence of God is not only declared but revealed in his works, in his providence, and in the work of redemption. 2nd, It means what is said in Ezekiel 33:11, 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked', and in Ezekiel 18:23. Also Lamentations 3:33, 'For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.' It means what Christ taught in the parable of the prodigal son, and of the lost sheep and the lost piece of money; and is taught by his lament over Jerusalem.

All these passages teach that God delights in the happiness of his creatures, and that when he permits them to perish, or inflicts evil upon them, it is from some inexorable necessity; that is, because it would be unwise and wrong to do otherwise. His relation is that of a benevolent sovereign in punishing crime, or of a tender judge in passing sentence on offenders, or, what is the familiar representation of Scripture, that of a father who deals with his children with tenderness, yet with wisdom and according to the dictates of right.[1]
1. From Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons. First published by the Trust in 1958 this fine volume of annotated sermon outlines was recently reprinted for the fourth time in 2011 (clothbound, 400pp., ISBN 978 0 85151 285 3, £15.50/ $26). J. I. Packer once wrote of this great book: 'The Princeton Sermons of Charles Hodge, one of the greatest Christian teachers of the 19th century, and are extraordinarily suggestive and satisfying. Preachers who would teach, and Christians who would learn, will enjoy this book, though it will not yield much to lazy minds.'
"Our Benevolent Sovereign," in Banner of Truth 584 (May 2012): 1.

Also in Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 18–19.


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